India’s Lahiri out for redemption
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, May 7: Indian golf star Anirban Lahiri is ready to slay his demons at TPC Sawgrass and become third time lucky at THE PLAYERS Championship starting on Thursday.
The 30-year-old is hell-bent on contending in the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament after missing the halfway cut here twice, including last year where he made a calamitous 10 on the par-4 18th hole after finding the water three times.
A stellar line-up of stars, which includes world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, current FedExCup points leader Justin Thomas, last week’s champion Jason Day, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and defending champion Si Woo Kim, will come together for the US$11 million showpiece which will also feature 50 of the top-50 golfers in the world.
“I’m definitely looking forward to this week. I think I’ve got some demons to exorcise. Played pretty well last year except for 18 and it’ll be nice to get back out there and exact some revenge. I feel I can play good on this golf course. It’s also good I’ve already played here a few times, I know what to do, know what the conditions are and know where the misses should be. It’s a week where I feel well prepared for,” said Lahiri.
Lahiri, a two-time Presidents Cup International Team member, has decided he will pull out his 2-iron when he steps onto the 18th hole on Thursday, a demanding finish hole at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass which has water hugging it on the left all the way to the green.
“I don’t even remember if it was an eight, 10 or a 12,” Lahiri said. “It was a big number. I’ve already decided I’ll hit 2-iron off that tee regardless of the pin and regardless of the wind. There are holes that don’t fit your eye and you’ve got to adjust. If you shoot a three there, it’s a bonus but I’ll be aiming for a four. There may be an occasion I might have to hit driver if I’m in contention or if I’m one back,” he said.
After starting the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Season strongly with two early top-10s in Malaysia and South Korea, Lahiri’s form has been patchy over the past four months which he attributed to his inability to score as reflected by his low 161st ranking in the Strokes Gained: Total statistic. He knows a strong week at THE PLAYERS can help him turn his season around.
“I feel a lot of departments are working but my scoring hasn’t been as good as I would like it to be. That’s where I’m going to be focusing on my work over the next two days here, in and around the greens and working on getting the speed right on the greens and making sure I’m comfortable with some of the shots that you get around here,” said Lahiri, who has not broken par in four rounds at TPC Sawgrass.
“This golf course, the field, everything out here and the way it’s set up and the way it’s run, the PGA TOUR does a fabulous job. It’s a great privilege for the PGA TOUR members to be here. It’s great we have that opportunity.”
Lahiri paid tribute to 2011 PLAYERS champion, K.J. Choi of South Korea, whom he believes set the trail for Asian golfers to shoot for the PGA TOUR, and title holder Si Woo Kim, who became the youngest PLAYERS champion last year at the age of 21 years, 10 months and 16 days.
“Since K.J. started this whole thing for Asian golf by himself, he has been the stalwart, and winning THE PLAYERS Championship and being in contention week in and week out on the PGA TOUR, he’s the one who started the fire in all our bellies,” said Lahiri.
“Si Woo is a great player. I teamed up with him at Liberty (Presidents Cup) and we’ve become good friends and we’ve played a lot of golf since then. I can see why he’s THE PLAYERS champion. Si Woo is a result of K.J.’s success and what Si Woo has done will create another batch of young and hungry Asian golfers to come out here.”